Explore Common Energy-Related Terms

When it comes to renewable energy, there are a lot of different terms and options out there that you may want to better understand. Whether you are looking to learn more about the industry in general, or you are looking for solar or storage solutions for your home or business, here is a list of key terms to get you started.

  • Alternating Current (AC) - An electric current which periodically reverses direction and changes its magnitude continuously with time. It is the electricity that is delivered by U.S. utilities at 60 Hz, and 120 volts.
  • Alternative Energy - Energy generated in ways that is less harmful to the environment because it is not as dependent on finite natural resources, particularly fossil fuels such as oil, coal or natural gas. Examples are solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric. (See renewable energy.)
  • Array - Multiple solar cells make up a solar panel, and multiple panels are wired together to form a solar array. The more panels you install, the more energy you can expect to generate, but depending on the efficiency of your panels, you may be able to produce the same amount of energy with fewer panels. (See solar panel efficiency and solar cell.) The number of panels needed for your solar array will depend on your energy needs and the energy offset you are looking to achieve.
  • Balance of system (BOS) - All of the physical parts that make up a solar system outside of the panels: inverters, wiring, mounting hardware, monitoring system.
  • Efficiency - When referring to a solar cell or a solar panel, efficiency refers to the percentage of sunlight captured and converted into usable electricity. (See solar panel efficiency.)
  • Photovoltaic (PV) - The process of converting light to electricity when two semiconducting materials interact.